White shirts and black name tags replaced the typical blue volunteer T-shirts at Provo’s Freedom Days Friday on Center Street.
Missionaries from the Utah Provo South Mission gathered under the white volunteer tent ready to get to work as Bill Bridges, director of volunteers for Freedom Days, said, “There’s only one rule today: have fun.”
For many of the missionaries, this was their first time volunteering in Freedom Days. For others, like Sister Kathrina Lani, from Pango, Vanuatu, this was not only their first time volunteering but also their first time celebrating American Independence Day.
“I’ve had my outfit picked out since Monday,” Sister Lani said.
Elder Logan Christoffersen, from Worland, Wyoming, said he looked forward to all the events and was amazed by all the different vendors and people.
“It’s like a cultural melting pot here,” Elder Christoffersen said. “I’ve learned so much already, especially about the church.”
Missionaries spent the Freedom Festival volunteering, marching in the parade and eating lunch with the mission president. Additionally, they spent their afternoons in the children’s Art Yard painting faces, drawing pictures and making airplanes.
“You never know who is having a bad day or a hard time,” Sister Lani said. “A smile is the best medicine for that.”
Terry Grant, chair of Freedom Days, said it is a great service opportunity for missionaries and a great way to get missionary work referrals.
“Freedom Days has been a tradition in Provo for over 35 years,” Grant said. “We have about 210 vendors that set up, local bands and music groups and children’s groups that perform for three days straight, and we expect about 120,000 people. It’s a big part of the Freedom Festival.”
Grant said they expect about 350 volunteers helping over the three days, many of them being BYU students and Latter-day Saints.
“It’s fun, free family activities,” said Kena Matthews, director of the children’s area at Freedom Days. “It gets crazy busy, but we adapt every year.”
Matthews works for Habitat for Humanity, one of the many organizations that sponsored activities for the children’s area. Just as with the missionaries and volunteers, her time is given freely.
Bridges, assistant dean for the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at UVU, also put a lot of volunteer time into making Freedom Days a success.
“We are just good corporate citizens who want to give back to the community,” Bridges said.